IL conservationists form taskforce to save Monarch butterfly - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

IL conservationists form taskforce to save Monarch butterfly

Source: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson Source: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson
SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) -

There is a new effort in Illinois to save the Monarch butterfly.

Populations of the species have decreased as much as 90 percent in the last 20 years, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The IDNR hosted a summit in Springfield on September 9 to talk recovery for the iconic species.

“A first step is to identify ongoing monarch conservation efforts so that we can better coordinate among them to create more butterfly habitat where it is needed,” Ann Holtrop, chief of the IDNR Division of Natural Heritage, said. “A survey has been developed to capture all of the diverse activities that are occurring for monarch butterfly conservation throughout the state.”

At the summit, organizers discussed results from the survey and formed groups as well as a ‘taskforce’ on future efforts.

Matt Lechner with the Shawnee National Forest represented the Shawnee National Forest at the summit.

“There are around 3,500 acres that we manage as open land, and those are prime for putting the right types of plants in that will help.” Lechner said.

The forest is a regular stop on the creature’s 3,500 mile annual trip from Canada to Mexico.

Lechner said changes in agriculture practices and deforestation along that path are partially to blame for the decline.

As of this year, the Monarch butterfly is not considered an endangered species, but it is in the process of earning that distinction. The U.S, Fish and Wildlife service is currently performing a study to make that determination.

The USDA reports the population can't survive without the milkweed plant. The decline in milkweed is "highly correlated with the adoption of herbicide-tolerant genetically modified corn and soybeans," according to research recently published in scientific reports at nature.com.

That plant is a circle of life for the Monarch; the caterpillars feed on milkweed and it's also where the butterflies lay their eggs. 

Conservationists say breeding grounds for the Monarch can be boosted by planting native milkweed plants. A partnership between the USDA and a non-profit group has already produced more than 35 million milkweed seeds.

MonarchWatch.org has information on how you can help the Monarch butterflies survive to fly another year. 

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